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That Al Green drum sound
Old 24th May 2008
  #1
Gear Addict
 

That Al Green drum sound

Anybody know how they got that awesome drum sound, who did Al Green have playing the drums on his records and how they miked up the kit and with what mics exactly?

Love that tight and punchy bass drum!
Old 24th May 2008
  #2
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espen askelad's Avatar
From another forum, T. Manning's words:

"The "Funky Memphis" drum sound was probably several things. As far as the drums actually recorded in Stax, of course the biggest part of the sound would have been Al Jackson, Jr., or in some cases, Willie Hall ("second string drummer from The Bar-Kays, later with The Blues Brothers). Secondly, the drums of course were important. Al used a Rogers kit mostly, and a Ludwig 400 snare. Those snares are amazing. The Stax drums were recorded in a pretty small drum booth. Al didn't have a lot of extra room in there. Also, that would mean very little "room" sound as we know it today. Mic'ing was pretty minimal. Usually a KM-84 (NEVER a 184, please, they are not the same!) on snare, but not as close mic'd as normal today. Perhaps about 5-8" and pointing at the snare. The hat was almost never mic'd. One or two 87's or 67's (usually one) would have captured the "rest of the kit" most of the time. The bass drum might have an RE-20 on it, or on occasion, either the snare or bass drum might have an RE-15 or a Shure 545. That's about it. Usually, bass guitar (mostly passive transformer direct), bass drum and snare were tracked together on track one, the "rest of the drums" on track two, and then the other music on any other tracks. The console (never any outboard pre's) was either a Fluckinger or a Spectrasonics, and recording would have been to Scully machines.

At Hi Studio, where they did Al Green and some other great ones, the drummer was....Al Jackson again! The setup was somewhat similar, although the console distorted quite a bit, and there was always a conga player playing along (Howard Grimes), "doubling" the bass drum and snare, and playing fours and eights. This is what gave the Al Green drums the sound of a "tom-like thing" on the snare. The drums there were not in a booth, but were pretty well surrounded by tall, dead baffles.

At the old Ardent, we had a drum riser-booth at first, about 2-3 feet off the floor, with "walls" built around it extending upwards about another 4-5 feet, the front wall having some plexiglass. We used this a while, but then took it down later, and put the drums in a corner of the room, usually with about 4 foot baffles around them. Console there was Spectrasonics, and machines again Scully, until we went 16 track, which was a 3M.

The drums, esp snare, were tuned pretty low, and were quite deadened. We almost always put the drummer's wallet on the snare drum. It would "jump up" when the drum was struck, providing a little "sound," and then fall right back down (gravity, I think!), deadening it again so that the ring was not very long at all. Rarely were toms hit. Almost everything was the bass drum, snare and hat (which wasn't mic'd).

Well, I hope that helps a little!

Best regards,
Terry"
Old 24th May 2008
  #3
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travisbrown's Avatar
Here are the drum tracks from "What's Going On" to take a closer listen.

Main Kit
Kit 2
Old 24th May 2008
  #4
Gear Guru
 
RoundBadge's Avatar
Check out Al Green's new disc "Lay it Down"
Comes out in a few days.Questlove does an amazing job at staying true to the Al Green vibe but bringing something new to the table as well.
Great stuff


..
Old 24th May 2008
  #5
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miqer's Avatar
 

Check out this thread, same question, and there is a pickture of Al Jackson with the rca mic near the snare.

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/drums...oul-sound.html

rca dx77 at the snare, with a wallet on the snare, + conga player doubling the snare (hoeray for drumagog that can do this for ya wink )

the pickture: https://www.gearslutz.com/board/attac...son-jr.sm2.jpg
Old 2nd July 2010
  #6
I read on another forum (tomshardware) the following:
"On all those old Al Green records they miked the snare with RCA DX77
ribbon mics, sounded pretty fat. I think they used ribbon mics for
the overheads too. "

not to question the terry manning quote, just seeking clarification.
Old 2nd July 2010
  #7
Gear Addict
 
rjacobsen's Avatar
 

Great info gearslutz, thanks!
rjacobsen
Old 2nd July 2010
  #8
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Sugarnutz's Avatar
Al Jackson played on the early stuff and after he died it was Howard Grimes. I was over there off & on during that period (my Dad was Willie Mitchell's mastering engineer; did all of Al Green's stuff on Hi up until the late 70's/early 80's). Overhead was more than likely a single U67, bass drum was an old EV, snare might have been a DX77 or another old EV. All that stuff was recorded on an Ampex 8-track with 351 tube electronics (machine actually ran at 14.5 ips as was discovered years later). Everything went through a custom console made by Bell Labs back in the early/mid 60's (doubt it was tube though). Mix down was on a passive mixer panel with limited hi/lo EQ; signal was so low coming out they had to run it into the mic inputs on the Ampex tube/351 2-track (and you thought a Folcrum was a modern idea). The studio was in the old Royal movie theater on Lauderdale (hence the name Royal Studios); floor was sloped and there was a jillion pounds of fiberglass batting behind miles of burlap draped from the ceiling and on the walls. Place was very dead acoustically. A lot actually went into that sound and it will be tough to duplicate, but good luck on your endeavor if you wish to try.

PS: That pic ain't Hi, might have been Stax though.
Old 29th December 2010
  #9
Lives for gear
The best thread ever...
Gotta have a 77DX on the snare...thumbsup
Old 31st December 2010
  #10
Gear Addict
 
rene-lemieux's Avatar
I got some first hand information from Charlie Chalmers, the horn and string arranger for all those albums via myy bandmate who recently worked on an album produced by him... Charlie said, in order to get the sound they DETUNED the top head until it was flabby, and then they would screw up the internal damper (that's on a lot of vintage snares) until its poked the head upwards from the inside... Pretty crazy but might just do the trick, Charlie also said, in a southern drawl "it was a rogers snare"...

The info don't get much better than that.
Old 31st December 2010
  #11
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sedohr's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by miqer View Post
Check out this thread, same question, and there is a pickture of Al Jackson with the rca mic near the snare.

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/drums...oul-sound.html

rca dx77 at the snare, with a wallet on the snare, + conga player doubling the snare (hoeray for drumagog that can do this for ya wink )

the pickture: https://www.gearslutz.com/board/attac...son-jr.sm2.jpg
This just got me thinking... if they had used drumagog to double the snare with conga samples back then, we would probably not be praising those recordings today, right ? I like ribbons but I love performance.

Kalli
Old 31st December 2010
  #12
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indie's Avatar
 

Al Green drum sounds are the balls.
Old 23rd March 2011
  #13
Gear Head
 
vegasking-pr.'s Avatar
 

I was fortunate enough to play on Jimmy Fallon a few months back. The first thing I did was track down Quest and tell him how 'Lay it Down' was one of my favorite records...and being from Tupelo, Ms....Al was the biggest influence. Quest looked at me and said, "Cool". HA, that was it!!! But at the end of the show he sent a runner to hand two pair of his sticks. I like to think he dug me finding him, just to tell him that "Lay it Down" is for real!!!
Old 23rd March 2011
  #14
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Brett 123's Avatar
 

This is when Gearslutz is truly great .

People helping each other out , with info from old threads and even some first hand experience .

We need more of this , not the usual "It's been discussed before , use the search engine " .
Old 3rd July 2011
  #15
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by espen askelad View Post
From another forum, T. Manning's words:

"The "Funky Memphis" drum sound was probably several things. As far as the drums actually recorded in Stax, of course the biggest part of the sound would have been Al Jackson, Jr., or in some cases, Willie Hall ("second string drummer from The Bar-Kays, later with The Blues Brothers). Secondly, the drums of course were important. Al used a Rogers kit mostly, and a Ludwig 400 snare. Those snares are amazing. The Stax drums were recorded in a pretty small drum booth. Al didn't have a lot of extra room in there. Also, that would mean very little "room" sound as we know it today. Mic'ing was pretty minimal. Usually a KM-84 (NEVER a 184, please, they are not the same!) on snare, but not as close mic'd as normal today. Perhaps about 5-8" and pointing at the snare. The hat was almost never mic'd. One or two 87's or 67's (usually one) would have captured the "rest of the kit" most of the time. The bass drum might have an RE-20 on it, or on occasion, either the snare or bass drum might have an RE-15 or a Shure 545. That's about it. Usually, bass guitar (mostly passive transformer direct), bass drum and snare were tracked together on track one, the "rest of the drums" on track two, and then the other music on any other tracks. The console (never any outboard pre's) was either a Fluckinger or a Spectrasonics, and recording would have been to Scully machines.

At Hi Studio, where they did Al Green and some other great ones, the drummer was....Al Jackson again! The setup was somewhat similar, although the console distorted quite a bit, and there was always a conga player playing along (Howard Grimes), "doubling" the bass drum and snare, and playing fours and eights. This is what gave the Al Green drums the sound of a "tom-like thing" on the snare. The drums there were not in a booth, but were pretty well surrounded by tall, dead baffles.

At the old Ardent, we had a drum riser-booth at first, about 2-3 feet off the floor, with "walls" built around it extending upwards about another 4-5 feet, the front wall having some plexiglass. We used this a while, but then took it down later, and put the drums in a corner of the room, usually with about 4 foot baffles around them. Console there was Spectrasonics, and machines again Scully, until we went 16 track, which was a 3M.

The drums, esp snare, were tuned pretty low, and were quite deadened. We almost always put the drummer's wallet on the snare drum. It would "jump up" when the drum was struck, providing a little "sound," and then fall right back down (gravity, I think!), deadening it again so that the ring was not very long at all. Rarely were toms hit. Almost everything was the bass drum, snare and hat (which wasn't mic'd).

Well, I hope that helps a little!

Best regards,
Terry"
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sugarnutz View Post
Al Jackson played on the early stuff and after he died it was Howard Grimes. I was over there off & on during that period (my Dad was Willie Mitchell's mastering engineer; did all of Al Green's stuff on Hi up until the late 70's/early 80's). Overhead was more than likely a single U67, bass drum was an old EV, snare might have been a DX77 or another old EV. All that stuff was recorded on an Ampex 8-track with 351 tube electronics (machine actually ran at 14.5 ips as was discovered years later). Everything went through a custom console made by Bell Labs back in the early/mid 60's (doubt it was tube though). Mix down was on a passive mixer panel with limited hi/lo EQ; signal was so low coming out they had to run it into the mic inputs on the Ampex tube/351 2-track (and you thought a Folcrum was a modern idea). The studio was in the old Royal movie theater on Lauderdale (hence the name Royal Studios); floor was sloped and there was a jillion pounds of fiberglass batting behind miles of burlap draped from the ceiling and on the walls. Place was very dead acoustically. A lot actually went into that sound and it will be tough to duplicate, but good luck on your endeavor if you wish to try.

PS: That pic ain't Hi, might have been Stax though.
i know the altec salt shaker (633a) was popular on drums then.
Old 7th January 2012
  #16
Gear Head
 
vegasking-pr.'s Avatar
 

anyone who's interested...here are quest's sticks he gave me. very cool design. half black, half white with a cool self drawn pic of quest himself.
Attached Thumbnails
That Al Green drum sound-quest-stix.jpg  
Old 7th January 2012
  #17
Gear Head
 
vegasking-pr.'s Avatar
 

AL GREEN RECORD STUDIO - LET'S STAY TOGETHER ... ??? ????? !!! PEACE - YouTube

from what i know this is royal studios as it was in the day.... i would love to hear what some of the gents who have been inside royal from then to confirm...

it would make my year!
Old 7th January 2012
  #18
And look at that super-high end vocal mic! Then I clicked o the Stevie Wonder one for Supersition in the studio, and he's using the same super-high end vocal mic. Secrets of the pros there, Bubba.
Old 7th January 2012
  #19
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RKrizman's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Roddey View Post
And look at that super-high end vocal mic! Then I clicked o the Stevie Wonder one for Supersition in the studio, and he's using the same super-high end vocal mic. Secrets of the pros there, Bubba.
You do realize this is not the original recording, right?

-R
Old 7th January 2012
  #20
Sure, but still. You see a lot of 421s, 441s, RE-20s and such used in the studio back then, which people now would laugh at, while they obsess about getting that sound.
Old 7th January 2012
  #21
Old 7th January 2012
  #22
Gear Head
 
vegasking-pr.'s Avatar
 

the noodle!

thank you much for posting that vid...WOW..very cool. i live down the road in Nashville and it makes me want to take that trip. i was just there and contacted Boo Mitchell and was going to try to stop in but time didn't allow it. after seeing this...i really want to stop over.
Old 7th January 2012
  #23
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RKrizman's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Roddey View Post
Sure, but still. You see a lot of 421s, 441s, RE-20s and such used in the studio back then, which people now would laugh at, while they obsess about getting that sound.
However, such was not the case in the original Al Green recordings, as described below:

"On I Can't Stop, Green and Mitchell again capture the unique sound they created three decades ago a perfect blend of Memphis soul, gospel, blues, and early rock & roll. To do so, Green returned to Mitchell's Royal studios to sing in the same vocal booth, on the same microphone (No. 9, an RCA ribbon mic reserved for Green's use only) and with many of the same stellar musicians who played on the original Hi Records sessions."

In fact, in the process of recording new material they went to great pains about trying to capture that original sound.

EastCoast > Al Green

-R
Old 8th January 2012
  #24
Quote:
Originally Posted by travisbrown View Post
Here are the drum tracks from "What's Going On" to take a closer listen.

Main Kit
Kit 2
Just curious, what does that have to do with the thread? I mean, I don't mind listening to them, but were you making a point that I missed?
Old 8th January 2012
  #25
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by brill bedroom View Post
Just curious, what does that have to do with the thread? I mean, I don't mind listening to them, but were you making a point that I missed?
haha... hard to say, but you have to realize you're asking a guy who posted that comment four years ago.
Old 8th January 2012
  #26
Gear Nut
 
FW Harper's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by espen askelad View Post
From another forum, T. Manning's words:

" Console there was Spectrasonics, and machines again Scully, until we went 16 track, which was a 3M. "
That Spectrasonics console is now in Seattle with Conrad Uno.
egg studios
Old 15th February 2014
  #27
Here for the gear
 

Howdy folks, I am a huge fan of Al Green and the (what I consider) the very unique sound of his band. I have read this thread and I see that there are people here who know a lot about Rev Al and technical details of his recordings. So, my question is this:
There is this great video of Al Green singing "People Get Ready" at Bolling Air Force Base with Wanda Neal. Does anyone know who the drummer is? Thank you in advance. Link below:

Al Green singing People Get Ready - YouTube
Old 9th September 2015
  #28
Here for the gear
 

This looks and sounds like a young James Gadson. Great sub-dude energy till the ending when the damn breaks.
Old 29th October 2015
  #29
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Al Jackson recording at Stax. Although that wasn't where they recorded Al Green, you can get some insight into his recordings at Stax (Otis Redding, Sam & Dave etc)
Attached Thumbnails
That Al Green drum sound-stax-al-jackson3.jpg  
Old 18th April 2016
  #30
Gear Head
 

Hello people,

In the first answer, where I was quoted, I should have mentioned that Al was in a booth at Stax only part of the time. The booth was not there in there earliest days, and was removed in the latest days. Other times Al was out in the larger studio area, but with baffles around.

In the video tour (very nicely done btw) of Royal (Hi), you see the drums set up in the center of the room…many times in the salad days of Hi, they were up against the wall, near where you see the booth.

Al usually used a Ludwig Supraphonic 400 snare, but the rest of the kit was Rogers. Charlie would have seen the Rogers logo all over the kit, and probably thought of the whole kit as that. Or, maybe at times Al did use a Rogers snare…I just never saw it. I have one of Al's Ludwig 400 snares with me still!

Best regards.
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